Crossing the Kingdom of Swaziland on two wheels. Country 19
Leaving Kwazulu Natal and South African soil was somewhat emotional as I had become quite fond of the intense natural beauty and diversity of the province, my exit however would be a magical one. Heading towards the Golela border crossing roughly 30 km from Pongola and flanking the gorgeous Jozini dam, I was stopped in my tracks a mere 6 km from the Swazi border. Two rather statuesque figures blocking my path to country nineteen and the Kingdom of Swaziland. Bidding me farewell before leaving the Republic and what felt like an acknowledgement for efforts two magnificent looking creatures stared me down, gave me a little nod, and slowly wondered off into the bush as if to say well done.
Reaching the border crossing, I flagged down a passing vehicle which was entering South Africa to enquire about a decent spot on the other side of the border to pitch my tent. The day nearing its end and nightfall round the corner the brain clicks into survival mode mapping out different possibilities for safe and secure shelter for the night. The driver of the vehicle turned out to be Digs Pascoe, CEO of the Space For Elephants Foundation www.space4elephants.org which was in the area doing some conservation work regarding the protection of rhino and the implementation of anti-poaching measures. I would soon find myself at the mercy of great hospitality joining their bush camp in the reserve for the night to be awed by stories of some rather accomplished wildlife conservationists and fell asleep to the sound of hippo’s wading in the stunning Jozini dam.
Swaziland beckoned and the crossing of the border instantly bringing a sense of calm as the tiny Kingdom exudes an unmistakable sense of serenity, this little African gem home to a pace that rarely surpasses second gear. I would follow the road northwards crossing the eastern half of the country towards the town of Big Bend where I would find a place to pitch my tent for the night. E 50 (50 Swazi Emalangeni / $7) secured me a patch of grass and a hot shower in the back yard of a bar, a bit of a steal considering campsites in neighbouring South Africa demanding double that figure and rarely that close to the pub.
English speaking Swaziland affording the opportunity to purchase the local African paper and do a bit more than just looking at the pictures. Bringing a wry smile to my face on more occasions than once, catching some rather peculiar adds and notices we rarely find in larger more established countries.
Over the flatlands and up the demanding 6 km climb into the great little town of Siteki, Swaziland never disappointing as I often found myself on beautifully quiet roads in stark contrast to the rest of the continent where you constantly find yourself battling for life and limb as large badly driven trucks force you off the road and into the bush on a regular basis.
It seems the smaller African nations finding a way of creeping into my heart and reminding me why I love this continent, they seem to hang on to the true beauty of this part of the world and avoid the temptations of urbanisation and the greed, envy and corruption that so closely follow, in turn undermining the real magic this continent offers. On that note Swaziland I salute you for remaining a warm, gentle authentic slice of Africa.